Between November 1873 and July 1874, workers on the Pennsylvania system and at least 17 other railroads struck. Engineers, firemen, brakemen, and track hands as well as shopmen and ordinary laborers resisted wage cuts, demanded salary due them, and opposed such employer practices as blacklisting and the use of iron-clad contracts. None of these disputes was so dramatic or important as the general railroad strike in 1877, but together they prophetically etched the outlines of that violent outburst.
The years 1874 through 1895 saw intense class struggle, much of it centering on the railroad industry. This struggle often took the form of working class self-activity, action organized by workers from the bottom up and carried out independently. Railroad workers did not wait for instructions or guidance from labor leaders, who often advised caution and conciliation with capitalists, but took action themselves.